Taking both song lyrics from 1977 and the history of the Gropius Bau building as starting points, the exhibition ‘And Berlin Will Always Need You. Art, Craft and Concept Made in Berlin’ explores the city’s current creative corners. While Berlin is swimming with international artists who work across all media, this show places art and craft on an equal plane, featuring existing and commissioned works by creative practitioners who engage specifically with traditional methods of production, aesthetics and materiality and examine historical artifacts and objects. Olaf Holzapfel’s large-scale, abstract works crocheted from hand-spun nature fibers, for example, will be on display alongside Willem de Rooij’s woven pieces that play with perspective and color gradient. Other works include a 12-screen video installation by Theo Esetu; hand-crafted suspended rope, wood and leather sculptures by Leonor Antunes; and never-before-seen works by Chiharu Shiota and Haegue Yang.
The focus on the relationship between art and craft stems from Gropius Bau’s history, as it initially housed a decorative arts museum and archaeological and ethnological collections. When it opened in 1881, Gropius Bau was the first German institution to operate as both a decorative arts museum and place of education. At the same time, decorative arts were seen as a guide to contemporary crafts and industrial design—a type of lasting effect of the industrial revolution. So while Berlin today might host an array of artistic practices, in the late 19th century it was a hub for textile manufacturing, inspiring debates on the changing conditions of craft in relation to mass production.
This history is reflected through contemporary artists’ explorations of authorship, labor, sovereignty and power structures, all of which appear as recurring motifs in ‘And Berlin Will Always Need You’—a phrase that Dorothy Iannone sang to Mary Harding in 1977, one year after she moved to Berlin, where she has lived ever since. Though we might have to fight against gentrification and the city’s techno-capitalist boom, this exhibition makes clear that Berlin will always need the artists who make it thrive, who create its culture and who think beyond the boundaries of the contemporary white cube.
Ahead of the exhibition’s opening on March 22, we’re giving away two tickets to one lucky BAL reader. To enter the giveaway, follow us on Facebook and/or Instagram, like the corresponding post, and tag a friend in a comment.